from a 2016 interview with Frank B. Rhodes
The independently-made Chrysler commercials start with Mr. Rhodes making furniture with hand tools and a high degree of skill. “Craftsmanship is everything to me; it goes into all the furniture I build. Maybe I get it from my great grandfather, Walter P. Chrysler. Maybe he was obsessive… but I get it. It matters. Every part has to be perfect.”
Why — and how — did he make the commercials?
I wanted to do something that was different. A friend of mine filmed the whole series; Paul Immo (of Moparpalooza) and another guy in Virginia lined up people who brought their cars down. I don’t know anything about filming, but I enjoyed making these, and I always want to preserve the Chrysler brand. That’s my goal in life: I want to see the brand preserved. I want to see it go into the next century. I want to help. I want to preserve Chrysler history.
When they were trying to get the money in 2008 and 2009, I went to all the hearings, senate hearings, and I did a lot of interviews, preaching about what Chrysler has done. There’s not a whole lot of people out there who just want to preserve the heritage of the company.
The first Chrysler had many innovations, it was way ahead of its time, and I think they need to promote that today. What’s hard to portray is its quality and engineering. It was very advanced, even the little things, like the horn. You know, that little beep beep electric horn? In New York City, my grandmother was saying you’d know a Chrysler was coming because everyone beeps their horns in New York. Instead of that old arOOga! you’d hear “beep beep” and you’d know it’s a Chrysler coming.
When the auto dealers got together to demonstrate for the bridge loan moneys in front of Congress, there was a big event with Jim Press at the Baltimore port. I drove over, with a big flag from the space program. When I came to the podium, I started talking about what Chrysler had done in the past, how they were the Arsenal of Democracy during World War II.
Because Chrysler had the think-tanks from the Airflow, when World War II rolled around, they were ready to produce. They just jammed on all these high-tech things that no one else could do. It was just amazing what Chrysler did in World War II. I wonder what they would’ve thought back then, that someday the Germans and the Italians would own Chrysler. It’s just mind-boggling.
One thing about Fiat, they seem to want to preserve history, which is a good thing. I’m really concerned about Chrysler history. Back in the 1930s, they were just so big, the ’40s, ’50s, they had so much to offer. I could go on and on and on. Especially the space program, I’ve met all the engineers. I wanted to do a book on the Chrysler space program, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get that done because I’ve got four kids and I’ve got a lot going on in my life.
I’ve interviewed a lot of the guys who were in the space program, down in Florida. I have all the manuals; I have all the letters; I have all the clubs. I have everything they did, all the history, because I did it 10 or 15 years ago. I’ve even got all the hard hats.
Chrysler got into the space program, because the Army wanted them, and Chrysler was the only one that would take on the job. No one else wanted it. They were the prime contractor for the race for the moon. People say, “I didn’t know they did that.”
One hundred years is coming up, and it’s really important that people know the Chrysler brand has been around for nearly a hundred years [1924-2024]. I just think that’s amazing.
Allpar: Chrysler sales shot up when they did the pride ads, and then the heritage ads with Dodge.
Yes, and I was hoping when they’d see mine they’d want to do something, but they don’t want to get involved. When I want to do some of our videos, they don’t even want to touch that with a ten-foot pole. I get it; so I’m just going to keep doing my thing.
When Chrysler went bankrupt, I told a guy from Chrysler Financial, “I’m really trying to help.”
He said, “Don’t say you’re trying. Say you did it.” I like that saying; I want to do something, not just talk. If it didn’t go anywhere, or if it did, I want to say, “Hey, I did that, and I’m doing my part to help preserve a great company and the legacy that goes along with it. It’s American.”
Walter Chrysler died too young, unfortunately. When he left, K. T. Keller took over. K.T. knew Chrysler, but it sort of filtered down as the years went on. They lost the excitement. Chrysler has to bring back the memory and the spirit.
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